Wonder at the Renwick Gallery

Don’t miss this awesome exhibition, it will close soon*! We checked the nine installations displayed at the Renwick Gallery and in just a quick one-hour visit we were thrilled by the big, astounding works. They all somehow evoke nature, our main source of wonder and admiration, but the making-of behind them is also thrilling

*second-floor galleries on May 8 and first-floor galleries on July 10, 2016

The sentiment of wonder occurs “when something quite new and singular is presented [and] memory cannot, from all its stores cast up any image that nearly resembles this strange appearance.”

Wondering at some new object causes “that staring, and sometimes that rolling of the eyes, that suspension of the breath, and that swelling of the heart”.

Adam Smith

Yes, looking at the strange and singular installations of the Wonder exhibit will definitely conjure those feelings:

an indoor rainbow made 60 miles of thread in 15 colors, a giant suspended woven sculpture of the energy released by the Tohoku tsunami and a suspended full-scale model of a 150 year-old tree made of half a million bits of reclaimed cedar wood. And there is more!

The hypnotizing suspended woven net (1.8 by Janet Echelman)


Everyone lies on the floor to better appreciate the massive undulating net that changes colors. It’s hard to imagine that such a peaceful, delicate and hypnotic piece is actually about a powerful force of nature. The sculpture is a woven data visualization depicting the effect of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. This 9.0 magnitude undersea megathrust earthquake hit the Japan coast in 2011 and was so strong that it shifted the earth on its axis.

The title of this artwork,1.8”, is how many millionths of a second the day (March 11, 2011) was shortened because of the tsunami. “The piece aims to show how interconnected our world is, when one element moves, every other element is affected.”, said the artist Janet Echelman, who, by the way, has an interesting TED Talk on taking imagination seriously.

The big tree made of small pieces (Middle Fork by John Grade)


To create this huge wooden tree, an actual hemlock tree was protected with tin foil and then covered in plaster to create sectional molds. Then hundreds of volunteers put together the tree with thousands of pieces taken from a bridge under demolition. Don’t miss this video of the process:

Middle Fork sculpture from John Grade on Vimeo.

The indoor rainbow (Plexus A1 by Gabriel Dawe )

What is it like to see a rainbow up-close? The prismatic effect is surprisingly real and was achieved by “simply” crafting a pattern of thread in 15 colors. It’s an optical illusion that mesmerizes. “When you see a rainbow in nature you get a glimpse of the order that exists behind nature,” said Dawe in an interview with the Smithsonian. “There are certain laws of physics working behind that.”

The room full of bugs (In the Midnight Garden by Jennifer Angus)

The wallpaper in this room is beautifully disgusting. The pink wash of the wall is actually made by crushing the bodies of a bug (cochineal, which lives on the prickly pear cacti of Central and South America) to obtain the carmine dye (also guess what: it’s used in candy and lipstick, yuck, google it). The circle and skull patterns are formed by about 5,000 dead insects, including big ones from Malaysia, Thailand, and Papua New Guinea. The artist used the skulls as a symbol of man’s mortality.“Our mortality is closely linked to the environment,” she said. “The fact of the matter is we can’t live without insects.”


Have you been to the Renwick Gallery? Tell us, what makes you wonder?


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awesome! will try to visit next time I’m in DC

WOW!! I walk by this museum every day and have always wondered what sort of exhibits are there – Now I MUST go…preferably before May 8th! thank you so much for sharing this.

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